Where was Melba not allowed to go and why in the book Warriors Don't Dry?

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jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Warriors Don't Cry is Melba Pattillo Beals's memoir of trying to integrate Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957, shortly after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 which ordered for the desegregation of all public schools throughout the nation.

Before 1954, public schools were segregated, meaning that "colored," or black, children were not allowed to attend school with whites. This was one of the ways in which the South's Jim Crow, or segregation, laws were expressed.

Beals was one of The Little Rock Nine, a group of black teenagers from Little Rock who chose not only to attend the white high school, but also to make history by integrating it. Though segregation was by now federally illegal, many white Southerners insisted on maintaining the old, oppressive system. Beals and her black classmates were harassed by fellow students and white adults as they tried to enter the school. There is a very famous photograph of Elizabeth Eckford, another of the black students, being screamed at by Hazel Bryan, a white student.

It is difficult and complicated to explain why segregation existed in the South. Arguably, if you had asked a racist white person at the time, he, too, would probably have been stumped for a clear answer. He likely would have chalked it all up to tradition or things having always been so.

Segregation began in the South after slavery and in response to Reconstruction, the post-Civil War period in the 1870s in which black people began to gain political power. This gain posed a threat to white dominance, so the response was to create a new form of oppression: Jim Crow.

The rationale for Jim Crow was that black people were naturally inferior to whites. White people justified their racism with claims that had no scientific basis. Many of their ideas had come out of pseudoscience, or false science, from the 18th- and 19th-centuries.

Many believed that blacks were intellectually inferior and, therefore, would diminish the quality of their schools. Others believed that black people were unclean. Some even believed that black people had tails. These nonsensical notions, coupled with fear of a people who had long been demonized, created the rationale for segregation and for the white South's insistence on maintaining it.

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Warriors Don't Cry

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